By Danny Contreras
This past Saturday Flyleaf and Drowning Pool made a stop at Hartford’s Webster Theatre in support of their new albums. Catching everyone by surprise, both bands debuted brand new vocalists to mixed crowd reactions.
The night began with Stars in Stereo, an LA-based band who have been constantly touring over the past year. They enjoyed a crazy rookie year tour with bands such as The Used and Hoobastank. They opened with a recently released single, “The Broken,” before paying tribute to Aerosmith with “Dream On.” They continued their six-song set with more originals before paving the way for metal heavyweights Drowning Pool.
Debuting a brand new vocalist Jasen Moreno, the band opened with “Step Up” from their 2003 album, Desensitized. The crowd was fairly lukewarm, and the main stage had yet to fill up when they took on the stage. Many fans were still in the Underground Stage, which was hosting many local acts. It took Drowning Pool a couple of songs to get into their groove. Moreno was a commanding frontman but lacked that hardcore edge that former vocalists had, especially the deceased original vocalist, Dave Williams.
The band carried on. They paid tribute to the aforementioned vocalist with an emotional rendition of “In Memory Of,” released on the tenth anniversary of William’s death as a tribute. Moreno asked the crowd to put a fist and a finger in the air for the recently released, “One Finger and a Fist,” a tough guy song, with a clear message. The crowd barely reacted and it was extremely disappointing. The band is known for one song, except to the hardcore fans. They’re not innovators, but they are pretty good live. Core fans ate it all up, however, and there were some in the audience. Clearly, most of the crowd members were waiting for the headliners, and it was painfully obvious.
They did some fan service with “Sinner” and “Enemy” but the saddest part of the night came with “37 Stiches” when Moreno asked the crowd to sing the song. It was agonizing to see him point the microphone at us, and for no one to sing the lines to the song. But the band and crowd redeemed themselves when “Bodies” began and everyone in attendance realized they knew what was coming next. They concluded shortly thereafter, to a fairly boring performance.
With almost 30 minutes after the end of Drowning Pool, the creepy intro for Flyleaf began to play for the awaiting crowd. And then the band slowly walked on stage as Kristen May took the place of Lacey, the original vocalist and a Flyleaf founding member.
Lacey left the band in October, following the release of the band’s latest album New Horizons. Citing motherhood and the death of a close friend, Lacey left the band and forced it into a corner to tour with a new singer, or wait on it until fans became accustomed to May. The band chose the latter.
While May is a perfectly acceptable replacement for Lacey, she felt forced. While hardcore fans knew of the change, many others were taken by surprise, which led to a very quiet Webster crowd. It’s not like she can’t sing or doesn’t have a stage presence; she does, and her voice is unique and beautiful. But unaccustomed fans felt uncomfortable with her. She sung clean and hit every note accurately. Her interpretations lacked Lacey’s personality and it hurt the performance. They opened with Memento Mori’s “Chasm” and continued with “This Close,” two great songs and perfect openers for May.
Yet the band truly blew it when they went with Flyleaf’s early material. One of the things that set the band apart was Lacey’s ability to growl demonically on command. While May tried her best, it didn’t fit her. “All Around Me” was sung quietly and cleanly while “Fully Alive.” Early Flyleaf had this “raw” element, and that was missing.
But what may have hurt May’s debut was the fact that she spoke of the band as though she were a fan and not a member. She referred to the band by “Flyleaf” instead of owning the fact she was the new singer.
Both bands underwhelmed, but it wasn’t entirely their fault. The lack of familiarity with the vocalist hurt the show, but the crowd itself just wasn’t into it. They came expecting something and were delivered something else. Overall, an average show made bad by the equally surprised bands and fans.